Flagrant

My Relationship with Books

Written in January 2007

Most of the books in my house were in a built in book shelf over the couch in the living room.  There were some others in the house, but those were books I wasn’t interested in—my mom’s romance novels and true crime rags.  I don’t know where they had the books before they built the back room on to the house and turned one of the windows to the backyard into that bookcase.
I can imagine they had some cheap laminate thing precariously shoved in some corner of the house.  The bright, crisp new book sleeves smile down on my infant brother.  He pulls up on the bookcase.  The shelves bow further under the added weight.  My mom is in the nursery folding pastel baby blankets.  A crash and a cry from the other room startle her.  She runs into the living room to find the top heavy case has crashed onto my brother.  She screams.

I consider myself now.  My sick sense of humor, my rabid imagination, my willingness to daydream myself out of reality are not products of playing too many video games.  I play them a lot now, but I never did when I was a kid.  I had to watch my brothers play.  I didn’t watch much television.  These are scapegoats for the local news.  I know that it was my parents’ books.
They were filthy and honest.  The people in them were devious and wonderful.  They taught me everything I know.  They are dangerous.
I have friends who can’t create new situations.  When they speak the sentences seem to pour from their hippocampus, a rehashing of something they’ve heard before.  I think that those books I read gave me the words, but not the music.
Those books gave me power I am unequipped to use and could never master as they have. They gave me a longing to use language to my own advantage.  I write horribly disconfigured stories.  I parade them in front of those books, and it is as if I have entered a bad transvestite in a Miss America pageant.
I lean over the couch and grab one of the worn relics of my childhood.  It’s dog-eared and water-stained.   I replace it appreciatively in its proper place.

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